The warm weather of the summer season is nothing short of a Godsend to many mothers with babies. After what feels like an eternity of being stuck inside nursing or rocking the little one on the couch, it’s finally time to move this party outdoors! Our babies may still be stuck on us 24/7, but at least we can do an occasional feeding — and maybe even a little tummy time — out on the lawn or at the local park.
We wouldn’t be mamas if we didn’t worry a little about the transition though. While a lot of us would love to spend our days soaking up the rays and working on our tans, we all want to make sure that our baby’s sensitive skin is protected. Sunburns can cause pain, fever and dehydration. Plus, it only takes one, blistering sunburn during childhood to raise the risk of melanoma.
Whether it’s your first season in the sun or your 10th, there are some tips that you should keep in mind in regards to your baby:
- You should keep babies under 6-months-old out of the sun as much as possible. This is because their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen and produces very little melanin (the pigment that gives color to skin, hair and eyes — and provides some sun protection).
- For babies age 6 to 12 months, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to areas left uncovered, such as baby’s hands, 30 minutes before going outside. “Broad-spectrum” means that the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays — both are important! Also, look for one made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as these will sit on top of baby’s skin instead of being absorbed into it and causing irritation. These types of sunscreen, known as physical sunscreens, are also non-toxic so you won’t have to worry about baby ingesting a little of it when she puts her hands in her mouth. Reapply it every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Be aware that the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When you can, try to time your family walks or outside play dates before and after this chunk of the day.
- Use UV shades for your stroller and UV umbrellas (or, even better, UV pop-up tents) when playing outside. It’s important to remember that babies can burn even when it’s cloudy or they’re in the shade. This is because it’s not the heat of the sun that burns the skin but the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Use lightweight, light-colored clothing to cover up as much of that thin baby skin as possible. Go for long sleeves and pants as long as it’s a cool, thin material — and remember that lighter colors will reflect the heat instead of absorbing it. There are also some good UV protectant clothing items on the market for babies.
- Invest in baby hats. Look for a wide-brimmed hat that will cover baby’s ears, neck and face. (Bonus: the earlier your child gets used to wearing hats outdoors, the less he’ll fight you about it as he gets older!)
- Finally, remember to check your sunscreen’s expiration date as active ingredients lose their effectiveness over time.
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